Tuesday, November 10, 2015


When someone would mention the Toyota Avalon, it used to be that you thought of retirees driving slowly with their turn signal flashing.  Then came the launch of the total redesign in 2013, which gave the older skewed Avalon an all-around aggressive new look, a look that caught my eye immediately.  It wasn’t only the sharp new exterior styling, the most noticeable change was Toyota’s tightening of the suspension for better handling and improved feedback to the driver.  The former stodgy, floating chassis of the traditional Avalon could now move with confidence, regardless of what the driver handed it.  Some older drivers complained.  I drove it and loved it!

So the Avalon was redesigned, and in my opinion improved, delivering the best of both worlds: it could handle with spirit around town, as well as provide hours of comfort on the open road.  It impressed me enough to turn my test drive into a purchase.  Fast forward from 2013 to earlier this week.  All cars at one time or another are named for a recall, even a Toyota, even my Avalon.  Reluctantly, I took my car in for a recall to replace both seat backs, an all-day repair.  My dealer set me up with a rental from our friends at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.  Minutes later, as chance would have it, I was driving a brand new, gray, 2015 Avalon.

It was an easy transition for me to go from driving mine to theirs (a great customer service move by Enterprise, giving a customer a car they are familiar and comfortable with).  But I noticed immediately that the 2015 Avalon was essentially the same, but noticeably different.  Something was not quite right.  The rental Avalon was Toyota’s high-end Sport model, with paddle shifters and their variable control suspension tuning and engine performance controls, sporting its Norm/Sport/Eco modes.  Being the top of the line, it should have impressed.  Instead, it left me anxious to get my Avalon back. 

The more I drove it, the more I wondered, could it be that Toyota launched the new Avalon to a whole lot of fanfare, delivering the quality its customer expected, then scaled back to save money?  Something had changed from 2013 and 2015 that seemed to lessen the thrill of the Avalon.  It seemed cheaper! 

For example:
-          The dash on the rental seemed to have more shiny reflective surfaces, giving it a plastic, cheaper look. 

-          The trolley mechanism for the sunroof seemed noisier, closing with a weak clink instead of the confident thunk of my car’s roof.

-          The back-up camera had more complex graphics, making it harder to read and accurately interpret distances.

-          The display of the high-end sound system in the rental, with Sirius Satellite Radio, made no sense.  They ruined the logical presentation of my Avalon’s system. 

I was so happy when I finally climbed back into my beautiful white Avalon.  The moral of my story: don’t hesitate to buy a redesigned vehicle the first year it’s offered, when the manufacturer has their best foot forward.  Don’t worry about them getting the bugs out of a new design run.  Get your dream car before cost overruns erode the little things that made the car special.  Love the Avalon, I just love mine more.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Progression of the Avalon

I am surprised how much different this 2015 Avalon rental was, as compared to my 2013, both from the same generation of design.  Not all in the progression was good.  Details to follow...

Thursday, April 3, 2014


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just announced that all new light vehicles must have rear view visibility systems by 2018.  Of course this means the price of a new vehicle just went up again.  Certainly required blind spot detection is soon to follow.  I remember when I was teaching my teenage sons to drive, I was always uncomfortable with them glancing over their shoulders to check for traffic in the “blind spot”.  But that’s what their driving education taught, so what right did I have to contradict them.  Still, how is it a good idea for the driver to take their eyes off the road in front of them?  Despite the cost, maybe electronic blind spot protection is a good idea?  Not necessarily.   

Actually, we have blind spot detection in our cars right now and we probably didn’t even know it.  The best part is that it doesn’t cost us a penny more. 

While buying a new car with yet another electronic device that could potentially need repair is not at the top of my list, I did test drive a new Toyota Avalon recently with blind spot detection and thought it was really cool.  An amber icon flashed in either of the side mirrors when a passing car was detected.  It certainly was cool, but is it really necessary?  Not according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).  They advise that the perfect solution to blind spot detection is as simple as adjusting both the left and right side view mirrors out from the car’s body, losing sight of the car as a reference and covering the void of the blind spots.  

A recent article in Car & Driver caught my eye and summed up the issue nicely: 

It’s so simple, it’s stupid!  Angle the side mirrors out away from the car until they just barely overlap the vision seen by the rear view mirror.  This past weekend I took a 500 mile road trip, so I gave the idea a try.  Like most other drivers, initially I was uncomfortable without seeing my car as a reference, but the more I drove, the more it made perfect sense.  I passed the hours by experimenting with both side mirrors, fine tuning their positioning to optimize coverage of the blind spots.  A car is in my rear view mirror.  As the car begins to pass, it’s in plain sight both in the rear view and the side mirror.  Just as the passing car leaves my side mirror, I see it for real in my peripheral vision.  Each stage of this coverage overlaps nicely.  No gaps in seeing the passing car, no blind spots.  I now have perfect 360 degree vision around my car. 

I don’t need blind spot detection and neither do you.  We’ve had it free for years.  Once you get by the slight learning curve of not seeing your car as a reference, you’ll love it.  There’s no going back for me, no more driving blind.  It’s blind spot detection made easy.     

Check out these links for more information:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BACK-UP CAMERA: How did I survive without it?

“How did I survive without it?”  That’s a question that I now ask daily.  A smart car buyer doesn’t just dive into a purchase.  Hours and days of research are required to ensure that you not only pick the right car, but that you are sure that it has the right options.  I have found that it’s actually a good idea to buy more than you think that you need (or want), so that you grow into the car, providing years of happy motoring. Before the recent purchase of my new Toyota, I spent months researching and assessing both myself, and the myriad of vehicle choices and their options.  As I mulled over what I wanted, as compared to what I needed, I decided that there was one item that was mandatory for me: I must have a back-up camera. 

According to Edmunds.com, through USA TODAY, “A majority of 2013 model cars and light trucks -- 53% -- have a standard backup camera, and 79% have one available, standard or as an option.”  Although temporarily stalled in governmental red tape, back-up warning systems may soon be required on all vehicles.  I know that with every car that I’ve owned, it’s been a challenge to see behind.  Whether backing or parking, maneuvering safely has always included guess work and luck.  Now, with the available technology of an affordable camera in a car, the guesswork is gone making backing much safer. 

I love my back-up camera.  How did we survive without it?  

As a regular user, I have found the following:

1) The driver can safely see if someone or something is directly behind the car.

2) You now know when to stop before impact.

1) The camera’s vision is impaired by reflections, either from daytime sun or lights at night.

2) Moisture and road debris can fog or fully obscure the image.

3) The image distorts the perception of depth, making the use of the reference guide bars essential.  
Blue = 3 feet, Red = 1.5 feet.

For me, the pros of safety easily out weigh the cons.  I find that I don’t use the camera for positioning the car.  For that, I still rely on the rear view and side mirrors.  But the back-up camera is essential for seeing obstacles behind the car and it provides a fool proof guide of when to stop.  How did I survive without it? 


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

maineautomall.com On-the-Air

As you know, maineautomall.com lists all types of cars and trucks for every type of buyer.  Male, female, young or old, maineautomall.com has your next ride.  We’ve been having a little fun lately exploring some of the types of people using the website, through television commercials.

Here are the latest:


Computer Dating:

Video Game:

4 Wheeling:

OLD Matt:

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Thursday, February 14, 2013


If you are reading this, you like cars. You didn’t just come to maineautomall.com to buy a car; you took the extra step to see what was up with this blog, to see what’s up with cars. I like cars, too. I have always been intrigued by the mechanics of the automobile, but mostly I just love the feel and freedom of cruising down the open road; the sensual experience of man and machine.

I am envious of celebrities who have the resources to buy and drive whatever they want. I’m not talking about those that buy status symbols, but those that truly know and love what they drive. I am especially jealous of people like comedians Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld. They are not driving to be seen, they buy and drive for the pleasure of the vehicle. If I had their resources I would do exactly the same thing.

Seinfeld in known for his fleet of Porches: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Seinfeld#Car_collection

Leno owns and drives a little of everything: http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/

Whether or not you like Seinfeld or Leno as comedians, you have to love their cars. I happen to like both comedians, and I love Seinfeld’s new internet show, COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE.

So basic a concept: pool together comedy, cars and conversation, and capture them on video. It’s Seinfeld and funny guys like Ricky Gervais (my favorite segment), Carl Reiner w/ Mel Brooks (enlightening) and Larry David (clever), driving all over New York City and Los Angeles, stopping to eat and drink coffee. Each episode is unique in location, guest and car. While the humor is entertaining, the real attraction to me is the cars themselves. You get to drive along with Jerry in a different car for each show.

Check out the line-up:

It’s not just a car nut like me watching these 10 cars, I mean episodes, it’s successful enough for Sony to order another 24 new shows. That means 24 new cars. Not only is the show funny, but it’s a great way to tour through the various neighborhoods of NY & LA, in cars that you will never get to drive on your own. Live vicariously through Seinfeld, and enjoy the ride.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Driving

If there are any doubts as to the hazards of winter driving, follow this link:


You've seen clips on NBC and the Weather Channel, but this tells the whole story. Four wheel drive and snow treads mean nothing when ice is involved. Stay safe, stay home!

Happy Motoring!